Need a Website Developer and Don’t Know Anything About Websites? Lessons Learned

If you’re looking to hire a website developer, do your homework. It’s the Wild West out there, especially if you don’t have any experience with websites and coding like me. I launched a website over a year ago and ended up in a good place but it was a lot of working finding the right developer. Here are some lessons learned.

Know If You Really Need a Developer

Before you hire any developer, first explore the possibility of creating your site on a free platform like Word Press. Word Press has hundreds of different themes (paid and unpaid) that offer numerous design and functionality options. Using a platform like Word Press saves money, offers an online community if you get stuck, as well as more control over your site.

I launched my blog with Word Press but needed more functionality for my website than I could get with Word Press, so decided to hire a developer.

If You Need to Hire a Developer, Know What You Want and Write It Down

Before I looked for any web development firms, I wrote down exactly what I wanted on my website – how I wanted it to look and the functionalities I needed. Don’t freak out but it was a 50-page PowerPoint document. I had a page for each page on my website. OK – I tend to be AR about such things and am a former consultant, so it was in my nature to do it this way.

Having the detail was great for comparing proposals. The risk of having such a detailed proposal was that I wasn’t sure if it closed off my developer from offering other ideas, features I may not have been aware of.

Research Possible Firms and Make a Short List

In looking for a firm, I needed a developer within driving distance of Chicago because I wanted to meet them in person at least once. I felt this would help set a foundation for a good working relationship.

I searched online to compile my initial list of 20 firms. I threw out those who took more than a few days to respond or never responded at all, had a string of complaints on Yelp or who misrepresented who they were on their website; for example, displayed different pages of the same website as different website clients in their portfolio, or projected themselves as a bona fide enterprise when it was a freelancer with a full time job doing websites evenings and weekends (freelancers are great for some work but I needed a firm who would be immediately available if the site crashed or had backup if the developer left).

I ended up with a short list of seven possible developers.

Ask for a Proposal and Prepare for Prices All Over the Map

When it came time to ask for a proposal, I was glad I had prepared such a detailed document to give them. It gave me confidence their prices would reflect the same understanding of what needed to be done.

Some developers, when seeing what I needed, immediately knew they couldn’t do the work and told me so (thank goodness). The rest emailed or called with a few clarifying questions and thanked me for the detail as it made their job so much easier.

I was shocked when the proposals came in. They ranged in price from $5000 to $150,000 for the very same work!! The higher prices mostly came from firms who also have corporate clients. They must have figured my pockets were just as deep as their corporate clients.

Check Their References

After narrowing my list to four possible development firms, I spent considerable time checking their references. I did not ask them for references but rather found names from their online portfolios.

I looked for clients who had websites with similar functionalities to what I wanted but also websites from different-size companies – from the mom and pop shops to larger businesses. (This latter point turned out to be a good thing as I was able to talk to not only others like myself who were launching their dream but also to webmasters, with technical expertise, who were managing the website for an employer. The mom and pops could speak to how well the development firm was at working with people like myself, and the experienced webmasters could speak to their technical expertise.)

Once I had my list of references, I emailed each reference and asked to speak by phone. Everyone agreed.

Here is the questionnaire outline I used during my phone interview:

Reference Questionnaire

Intro:

Hi. Thanks for agreeing to talk.

I have a series of questions I’d like to ask you but just want to start by asking you about your overall satisfaction with [name of website development firm].

Top Priority Questions

Do you feel they delivered on the proposal they offered?

Once your site was operational, did you experience any problems? Navigability? Calls for help from users? Other?

When it came to problems, how was their overall attitude toward fixing the problem and what was the turnaround time?

Once the project was over, how was the general support you received?

How close was the original bid as compared to the final cost?

Are you happy with the experience?

What would you do differently?

What were their greatest strengths and assets?

What were their greatest deficiencies?

What are the “watch outs” you would give people like us looking for a web development company?

If Time

Did they follow your “vision” and put it into action?

How did you feel about overall website design creativity and flexibility throughout the process?

When you call/email, did you typically get to talk to the person you needed to talk too?

Were they professional?

Did you get the sense that they were building a lasting relationship with you or just getting a project done?

Checking the references was an invaluable part of the process. I ended with a clear first choice whom I eventually hired.

Find Out How Much Control You’ll Have Over the Back-end

It’s been a year now of working with this firm and I’ve been happy. They’re professional, delivered as promised for the price they quoted and good to work with.

The one step I would have added if I had known better at the time was to find out how much I would be able to do on the site myself. I’m able to make simple content changes directly but not any changes that require coding.

This past year, I learned just enough HTML to make simple improvements but because my web developer has control over most of the back end, I can’t make those changes directly. Instead I need to pay development time which has been the only frustrating part of the process. There are definitely things I would want my developer to do but some of the little things, like putting a line of code into the header, are things I would like to do myself.

These are my lessons learned. Are you a non-techy who’s worked with a developer? What lessons do you have to share?

Business Identity Portal Development

If you think that a few static pages like Home, About Us, Our Services, Contact Us and a dot com domain is all you need to brand your company, you couldn’t be more wrong! Your need is a good Business Identity Portal development service to brand your business and put it above average. Every roadside business seems to have an official website today, so why would a visitor rate you high? Business Identity Portal developers specialize in adding to the brand value of your business and providing your clients what exactly they want from your portal.

Your custom website is the key to drawing maximum mileage out of your business. A website is no longer a showoff for a business but is the most powerful marketing tool. People around the world have developed the habit of Googling before subscribing to any service or buying any product. Your online identity is as important as the kind of products and services you deal in. Can you allow your business rival to walk past you for the sheer lack of a professionally created and managed website? No, Sir!

In a market where there are equal numbers of web developers as there are websites, you need to be choosy about whom you hire for your custom website. The secret is to outsource it to an offshore development firm and get it done by the experts. A developer not only needs to be technically competent but also should have adequate knowledge of web designing trends and this comes with expertise. You will also save huge sums of money in doing so and be rest assured that your official website will add to your brand value.

Advantages of Business Identity Portal Development

  • Your websites has to have a corporate look keeping in mind the kind of business you run. A pharmaceutical company and an online poker company can’t have the same design.
  • Search engine friendly coding is written to ensure that your website is indexed higher on the Search Engine Results Pages. Websites developed using free templates generally have poor SEO scores.
  • Integration of a content management system like Joomla, Drupal or SharePoint allows you to publish, edit and manage your website. A regularly updated website is the need of the hour.
  • BIP development focuses on Customer Relationship Management which helps you find more leads and converts them into clients. It also improves the client-vendor relationship.
  • Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter should be used aptly to bring in targeted viewers to your website to add to your business. This also acts as a low-cost or no-cost advertising platform.
  • You can easily integrate an e-commerce model in your website to increase the sale of your products and services. This will help you target newer markets which you might never have thought of.

A business portal developed tailored to your business requirements can do wonders for your marketing strategies without having to pay a fortune for it. If you don’t have it yet, hire business portal development company now and get the maximum out of your business!

Pitfalls to Avoid in Web and Graphics Design

In today’s business environment, having a website is becoming more of a necessity rather than an option for every enterprise irrespective of their size, nature, and niche. However, the entire process of designing and developing a website is definitely time consuming and even problematical at times. Nonetheless, even the most skilled at doing web design jobs commit mistakes in this process. Although mistakes are helpful to improve the web design from time to time, there are certain mistakes that should be avoided at once to avoid getting repercussive consequences to your website in the long run. Provided below are some of these pitfalls website owners and designers should shun.

Background Music

Really, try to avoid having a background music on your website. Gone are the days when the most voguish websites are those that have the coolest music while their pages load. Today, trendy website designs are geared towards providing great user experience including having prompt page loading and logical navigation. Besides, having a background music would only slow down your website’s loading speed, which in turn, would only cause annoyance to your visitors.

Asymmetrical Design Colors

When it comes to selecting the color of the website, a lot of designers get it all wrong. Although having complementary colors should be given, dozens of designers are still unaware that there is in fact a science behind color selection. Normally, designers would just pick any color they want or the colors that look alright to them. However, this often result to bad mixture of colors once they are applied on your other design elements. Therefore, you should think twice or better, do some research before mixing colors for your website. Keep in mind that good color harmony is essential in making your website visually-appealing.

Non-responsive Layout

With the growing usage of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets in browsing the internet, it would be a missed opportunity if you don’t make your website and graphics design responsive. Actually, you could get a lot of traffic from these devices especially if your target clientele are those who are always on the go. Hence, make your site design exceptionally suitable for viewing on different mobile devices.

Inimical User Interface

On certain occasions, a lot of website owners only care about their own preference when it comes to creating and designing a website. This is clearly a big mistake because they should take into consideration the preference of their users. Although having a fancy website can be personally gratifying, it is your users who will constantly visit and navigate your site. Moreover, adding too much design elements will only make your whole website complicated and cluttered; not to mention that they will only decelerate your page’s loading time. In the long run, having an unfriendly user interface would hamper your business success because your acquired traffic will only bounce back.

No Index

There are a myriad of reasons why you would not want your website to be indexed during the development stage. This can be carried out by either having meta tag in the page header or utilizing a robots.txt file. Nevertheless, you should never fail to remember to re-index your website once it is ready to go live. If not, search engines will never find your website.

Conclusion

In any endeavor, mistakes will always be there. However in web development and designing, committing mistakes should be kept to minimal as much as possible, for these mistakes often lead to damaging effects to the entire business in the long run. If you are working with a website design firm, make sure to discuss the above-mentioned matters in order to avoid problems before and during the development phase.